iPhone users can now transfer Signal data to new phones — here's how

The Signal Private Messenger App Store listing displayed on an iPhone's screen.
(Image credit: Ascannio/Shutterstock)

Encrypted-messaging app Signal now lets you easily transfer your account data, including archived chats, from one iPhone to another. 

Previously, iOS users would have had to start over again when moving to a new phone. Signal bases accounts on phone numbers, but all user data is kept securely on the phone, where it's supposed to stay. 

the company said in a blog post

Android Signal users have been able to get around this restriction by manually moving data from one phone to another in the form of a password-protected encrypted backup file. But iOS presented a problem because "the notion of a 'file system' remains a foreign concept to many iOS users" according to Signal's Nora Trapp, aka Imperiopolis.

So instead, the iOS data transfer works by displaying a QR code in the Signal app on the old phone, which the Signal app on the new iPhone can then read. (Google's Authenticator app transfers account data in a similar manner.) Both phones must be using Signal iOS version 3.9.1 or later.

"The QR code itself does not include any sensitive information," Trapp wrote on the Signal blog. "If someone else is in the same room and dives across the table or races to scan it first, the worst-case scenario is that they could start transferring their data to the new device before you." 

Illustration of the Signal Private Messenger data-transfer process on iOS.

(Image credit: Signal)

Full data-transfer instructions are on this Signal page, along with instructions on moving data between Android devices or between desktops.

"The new device verifies the integrity of the transferred data," Trapp added. "If any errors are detected (for example, if the phones get too far apart and the connection dies), the process is simply aborted and you can try again later."

Once the transfer is complete, the Signal account on the old phone will be deactivated and the user data will be deleted from that device.

Last week, Signal said it was developing a new feature that would automatically blur out faces in photos shared with other Signal users.

Paul Wagenseil

Paul Wagenseil is a senior editor at Tom's Guide focused on security and privacy. He has also been a dishwasher, fry cook, long-haul driver, code monkey and video editor. He's been rooting around in the information-security space for more than 15 years at FoxNews.com, SecurityNewsDaily, TechNewsDaily and Tom's Guide, has presented talks at the ShmooCon, DerbyCon and BSides Las Vegas hacker conferences, shown up in random TV news spots and even moderated a panel discussion at the CEDIA home-technology conference. You can follow his rants on Twitter at @snd_wagenseil.